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Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in Peter Rich's LiveJournal:

Saturday, June 17th, 2006
1:09 am
My review of HoudahSpot as seen on MacZOT.com

MacZOT! has done it again. They've put out another BlogZot with a great little app for my mac that I can see myself using. It is called HoudaSpot and is basically a search engine based on Spotlight technology in Mac OS X 10.4. When I first read about it, I thought that it was not something that I was gonna' need. Quite frankly, I use Spotlight to find working documents and files and QuickSilver for everything else (it's a nice way of using the two as a team instead of pitting them against each other). I thought I'd go ahead and try my hand since the other BlogZot's I've done have been very beneficial to me. Well, guess what? On my very first search, it located a file that I could not find earlier today that I haven't worked on in months (it is a template to a user's guide that I made and my boss wants me to update it since the software has since been updated). I tried to look for it in Spotlight, but had the wrong naming convention (apparently, I had not put a space in the title when I thought I had). Since my HoudaSpot search was for particular attributes of the file (such as a range of time it was last opened), I found it right away—and I wasn't even looking for it at the time! I was thrilled to see that HoudaSpot has a "Recent items" search by default (since OS X's recent items has never worked properly). Previously, I had to hack together the text file of a Smart folder in order to get my most recent files to appear. So, hats off to HoudaSpot and MacZot for doing it again.

NOTE:If you're seeing this on June 16, 2006 head over to MacZOT, you might be able to get a Free copy of HoudahSpot

Search easily in Tiger, Mac OS X, with HoudahSpot
Tuesday, June 13th, 2006
11:47 am
Using Writely in a face to face (f2f) course
I recently began using Writely as a way to share documents with other researchers online. At nearly the same time, I started a seminar (face to face) on case study research. The second day of the class, the professor began by grouping us in two's, handing out poster-board, and divvying up the task of summarizing different issues of our readings. He then put the posters up on the wall. It occurred to me that Writely would be a perfect tool for synchrounous class note-taking (well, writely is actually near-synchronous, not real-time exactly). So, I created a Writely document, typed up the notes, and shared it with my class members. It's now week two of the class and I, or someone else, creates a document for that days' notes. I have to say I really like it. It's a collaborative note-taking effort. It is a relatively small class (8 members + 1 professor), and only 3 other people take notes on their laptops during class, but it's been handy to see how someone else summarizes what was said (or if they summarize it at all). As a doctoral candidate in Instructional Technology, I obviously can see the benefit of such a method for the classroom teacher at all levels. This is a great way to make sure that the entire class has the same notes without the professor being the one to have to type the notes. And yet, the teacher can peruse the notes after the class and correct any errors, or give insight where people were unclear (or add in things that they may have missed). We haven't gotten to that point in this class, yet (but I'll keep working on the professor and see what we come up with).

So if this is where the free Web is heading, journey on!
Tuesday, April 25th, 2006
4:28 pm
blogZOT! 2.0 - SubEthaEdit

BLOGZOT 2.0 on MacZOT.com

Wow, I can't believe MacZOT! is doing it again! They are giving away supercool free software, SubEthaEdit from CodingMonkeys, just for a bunch of bloggers posting links back to their promotion. MacZOT and TheCodingMonkeys will award $105,000 in Mac software this time around. I was actually introduced to MacZOT! this way about a month or so ago when I got AppZapper for free. I have not used SubEthaEdit, but I must say that I am interested. And the nature of the software makes me want to tell more colleagues about it as the software is meant for collaboration (smart move, MacZOT!). I love this site.
Monday, April 3rd, 2006
7:38 pm
Wow, I just read that if the unofficial OS X UNinstaller that mac has never included is currently being offered for almost free (http://maczot.com). They are lowering the price $.05 for every blog that this gets posted to. That sounds like a good deal to me, so here I am posting it to my blog. I'm going to forward this on to a couple of friends so the price goes from the price $.69 tag that it's currently at to $0.00. (although I'm willing to pay $.64 for it, too).
Monday, February 6th, 2006
2:15 pm
This is a test of the emergency broadcast system.

Current Mood: happy
Monday, January 30th, 2006
9:47 pm
So what are instructional decisions, again?
You're probably sick of background by now, but I never really had a place to write down how I got here. Now that I'm here, what have I learned?

Initially, I had a hard time finding anything on instructional decisions. It's just not a hot topic in education right now. In fact, teacher self-assessment in general is sorely lacking in the area. Finding any recent research on it is difficult, which to me is unfortunate, since I see teaching as an opportunity to continually expand one's learning. It's often said that teaching something is the best way to learn it, but what about learning (and improving) about the way you teach?

It ends up that all I had to do was dig back far enough. During the 1970s and 1980s educational researchers such as Hildo Borko, Rick Shavelson, Chris Clark and a multitude of others spent years researching teachers' instructional decisions (self-assessment of teacher practices was actually hot in the 1960s). From this research emerged decision-making models, expert/novice teacher thinking comparisons and understandings of teacher judgment, among a multitude of other insights (cf. Clark & Peterson, 1986). Shavelson (1973) called it "the basic teaching skill." Yet, as important a skill as instructional decision-making was thought to be, it is interesting to note that these studies were virtually all descriptive or experimental. While researchers were doing more to understand the intricacies of teaching, their findings were doing little to actually shape the way teachers learned and practiced their skill. In fact, in reviewing the instructional decision-making literature, I was only able to locate a single study in which teachers studied and changed their own instructional decisions (Parker, 1984).

Epistemologically, I lean toward situated cognition for learning (I'll talk about this in a different post). I see instructional technology as a sort of design research. Design research, to me, means that the research needs to be practically applied. Dr. Reeves always talks of how UGA scholars are ranked highly but have done next to nothing to change the apparent education system in Georgia. To really have an effect on teaching, it seems to me that simply describing teachers' instructional decisions is insufficient. While informative, they do little to shape or inform the teacher herself. Thus, my research is not about analyzing teachers' instructional decisions, but rather about helping them to analyze and act on their own decisions.

Since Schon's (1983)reflective practitioner work, reflection has become an applied method of analyzing one's own instructional decisions and teaching. The idea of reflection has had an enormous influence in the literature on teacher education since that time. The sheer volumes of literature on reflection speak to widespread interest in its use. Despite the wide appeal of reflection in teacher education, research findings do not delineate a relationship between these practices and teachers' decisions. The AERA panel on Teacher Education recently released an 800 page report on the status of research on teacher education (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005) in the past twenty years. It reports on teachers' beliefs and attitudes, preparing teachers to work with diverse and special populations, professional and pedagogical content knowledge, teacher education program structure, program and individual accountability measures, and the politics of teacher education in changing times. Conspicuously missing from the report is any mention of research on reflective practices in teacher education, a major component in many teacher education programs. This is particularly notable considering that one of the authors and co-editors, Kenneth Zeichner, has long been at the forefront of reflective practices in teacher education (Zeichner, 1990, 1994; Zeichner & Liston, 1996; Zeichner & Tabachnick, 1991). Fred Korthagen and Theo Wubbels, proponents of reflective practices themselves, give a clear answer when they note:

One of the almost shocking discovers one can do when starting to screen the international literature on the issue of promoting reflection is that there is very little research on the effectiveness of teacher education programs aiming a the promotion of reflection...Many studies rely heavily on comments made by student teachers during course evaluations, as well as on self-reports, general observations, and isolated anecdotes (p. 89).

Clearly, research on reflective practices in teacher education has not generated a solid base for understanding how preservice teachers might systematically examine and assess their own instructional decisions. Hence, there is a need to further explore more systematic methods of monitoring one's own instructional decisions, based on more than "self-reports, general observations, and isolated anecdotes."
Friday, January 27th, 2006
6:38 pm
Getting out of the whirlpool
Toward the end of my first year, I had the fortunate opportunity to get on a PT3 project named ETEACH with Dr. Art Recesso. At the time, I saw it as fortunuate, but didn't see it as a chance to do my research. Luckily, he did. I took a class with Dr. Michael Hannafin, my advisor, the first semester of my second year here that focused on building a program of research. The main product of the class was a framework paper. It was through talking with Drs. Recesso and Hannafin that they encouraged me to pursue my research interests in instructional decisions through the ETEACH project, which focus on the use of evidence for collaborative and self-assessment. I haven't been as productive as I would like to have been since then, either, because I tend to want to get pulled back into the whirlpool. I thought of pursuing self-assessment in teacher education and collaborative assessment and putting aside the instructional decision-making ideas for now. But (in much frustration, I'm sure), Drs. Recesso and Hannafin continue to encourage me to focus on instructional decisions through evidence-based methods.

As I said in my last post, I have been fortunate enough to be on this project, which has basically handed me the participants I need--preservice teachers in elementary education. Right now, the currents are getting strong and promise to carry my research downstream. I'm hoping that I'm up to the challenge and can let myself flow with the currents and let my research take off.
Thursday, January 26th, 2006
3:57 pm
Getting into the water, and the whirlpool...
For my first two years here, I felt like I was stuck in a whirlpool at the junction of two rivers; there were currents flowing all around me, but I kept spinning in all directions. Like a kid at a candy store, everything just looked so good and I couldn't ever decide on what I wanted. I needed a good kick to get me out of the center of the pool to get me going. The direction I headed in took me to looking at teachers' instructional decisions.

'What in the world are instructional decisions?', you say (go on, say it). As I saw it, they encapsulate the curriculum related decisions teachers make on a daily and momentary basis. What in the world does that have to do with Instructional Technology? (you don't have to ask that one, but I'll answer it anyway). Before I came to UGA I worked as a TA in an Instructional Psychology and Technology program at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah for about 2 1/2 years. We helped literally hundreds of students each semester. I saw amazing and not so amazing uses of technology. One person used their hypercard assignment to create a technology-assisted lesson for a person with extreme physical disabilities. The program had over one hundred cards! Then, to top it off, the person brought in the student it was designed for and had him use it. Another person created an entire "Where in the world is Carmen SanDiego" game for her eight grade social studies class. These two were the exception, however. I don't know how many times I saw an assignment that could have been better achieved with a class handout, on an overhead, or in some other way more effectively. It just seemed like a waste of time. Granted, these were people from some beginning or advanced point in their teacher education programs and not practicing teachers. But still, it made me wonder what made teachers decide to use one technology or another, and in particular, how they decided to use it in their classrooms. This experience got me in the water, but I had just barely gotten wet.

Those who know me know that I have a passion for second language learning. Working in the environment described above gave me the opportunity to learn lots of programs and see how people applied them to learning. As an elective for a TESOL minor, I enrolled in a computers in the humanities class. In this class, I learned a program and language called "Runtime Revolution." You don't hear about it much, but it is a hypercard sort of program. More importantly, it was my first experience with programming. I attempted to create a language learning game as a final project. Now I was in the water and getting wet. I wanted to see how I could apply technology to learn languages.

Over the following year, I had many opportunities for self-directed learning of programs and scripting languages and got to make systems for use in the school of education. During this time, I applied to UGA's Instructional Technology program and was admitted. I was particularly excited to come to UGA because I had been looking for someone who was interested in using games for learning (Dr. Lloyd Reiber) and in open-ended learning environments (Dr. Michael Hannafin). I came here the first year with the hopes of creating a collaboration that would allow me to create a language learning virtual world I had envisioned (and actually had drawn up many specs for). At the same time, I was employed in the Learning and Performance Support Laboratory on a project entitled Technology Integration in Math. I had the opportunity to train, assist, and observe K-5 teachers attempt to integrate technology into their curriculum to make learning math more effective. As with the undergrads, I saw a number of poor and good applications of technology integration. I began to wonder again what drove teachers' instructional decisions to use this or that in such and such a manner, especially since I had now been "trained" in instructional design and I knew the "right" way to plan. Although I tried to write a small grant for the language learning thing during this time, I soon discovered that I was not capable of running in three different directions at once, so I put aside computer-assisted language learning for another time. Of course, in my experience in the classroom, I saw a million other things that interested me: creating conditions for collaboration, situated environments, and so on and so forth. I was now in the heart of the whirlpool, and every way I turned I could see the water flowing but I was going nowhere.
Wednesday, January 25th, 2006
8:04 pm
Is DBR just good research
As I have read the DBR articles from the special issue of ER I wonder if good design-based research is not just plain ole' good research. I don't have the articles here in front of me, so I'll have to come back and edit/expand this post later, but it seems interesting to me that their recommendations are to 1. Let the questions drive the methods; 2. Keep a record of everything; and 3. Test your theory in practical settings. These are all things that I've been told to make sure and do since I've been here at UGA and they are things I imagine most good researchers do. So how is DBR different?
Tuesday, January 10th, 2006
12:14 pm
The missing chapter
Recently, an 800 page tome was released by the AERA council on Research in Teacher Education (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005). They reviewed research on teacher education in the past 15-20 years in what appears to be an attempt to address concerns that research in teacher education are not robust and scientifically sound. The report usefully reports on political issues, personal and programmatic assessment, beliefs, program structure, certification programs, and issues dealing with diverse and special populations. In one of the chapters they even talk about microteaching, which is pretty much a method from a bygone era. Conspicuously missing from the report is any mention of reflection. This becomes even more curious when you consider that one of the editors and authors, Ken Zeichner, has long been at the forefront of reflective practices in teacher education. Additionally, the life of this reflective literature matches perfectly within the timeframe of the research reviewed, while microteaching really doesn't fit at all. There are two things I'd like to point out from this 'missing chapter.'

  1. First, the nature of the report is not to really report on research in teacher education in the past fifteen years. Rather, the report sets out to establish that scientifically robust research is actually occurring in the field. The overwhelming reliance on quantitative reports throughout each chapter seems to deny the fact that most research done in teacher education is actually not quantitative.

  2. Second, and just as important, this easily points to the lack of quality or rigor associated with refective methods in teacher education. In my opinion, teachers need some way to assess their own progress. In the past 20 years, reflection has been that method (in teacher education, not in practicing teachers' classrooms). There is obviously something wrong with simple "reflection." In fact, this book is not the only culprit in the missing Reflection chapter syndrome. Rather, it is more the status quo. If you do a search for "reflect*" in the Journal of Teacher Education in the past 5 years, you come up with almost 80% of the articles published. And yet, one is hard-pressed to locate any review of research on reflection. There are so many articles and so few findings, it would seem. There's obviously something wrong here. I have my own opinions of where the erros lie on both sides. What is your opinion?

Current Mood: working
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